In Praise of My Sister

Gail Goepfert


           —after Wislawa Szymborska

She jots notes and lists. Brillo, hair dye, blades.
Call Ruth. Card to Hannah. Buy beer and pecans at Hy-Vee.
In her letters, there are always two m’s in tomorrow.

Taste of Home collects in piles, recipes dog-eared—
Chicken and Dumpling Casserole, All-Star Praline Muffins,
names capitalized like titles of books.

My sister doesn’t write poems.

She uses an ironing basket, like my mother.
Her uniforms pile up, await spritzing. She irons—shirts and pants,
flat and flawless as violets pressed in pages of a book.

She lives outside a small town, burns up eight rural miles
to work six days a week. The doctor’s patients like her.
She remembers that Mr. Chadwick winters in Bonita Springs,

and Joan Springer’s grandkids are turning ten.
On her lunch hour, she runs errands for her mother-in-law,
drops off bread. She doesn’t think of writing poems.

When I visit, we sort mounds of castoffs piled
on her bed, donations for Goodwill where she shops.
She tries on the pumpkin outfit that she made to greet kids

at the door when her boys were little, jams
it full of old sweatshirts, and makes me laugh tears.
I tease about moving to the country into the house

for sale down the way, with the backyard open to fields
of corn. Yard ornaments tasteful and not.
Quiet and freshness butter me up.

We feast on tomatoes, squash, radishes, beans from her garden,
sit in the shade all afternoon, no need for a clock.
The cat chases dust in the air, curls in the sun by the door.

My sister doesn’t write poems.


Gail Goepfert, poet and photographer from Illinois, is an associate editor at RHINO Poetry. Her first chapbook, A Mind on Pain, was released in 2015, and a second book will be released in early 2018 by Aldrich Press. Her first full-length book of poems, Get Up Said the World, will be published in 2019 by Červená Barva Press. Recent publications include Kudzu House, Rattle, Minerva Rising, Red Paint Hill, and Switchgrass Review. More at